Teaching is full of wondrous, magical moments be it a shared smile with a student, relishing a favorite book together, or witnessing an act of kindness. But sometimes the magic is so powerful it’s palpable. This past Friday you could feel the magic in my room. Here’s how it happened.
Earlier in the year, I read All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman and You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk to my students. Besides the fact that these books make my body vibrate with joy, I wanted to share them with my class because they each have a phrase that repeats throughout the text. To reinforce the repetitive phrase in both books, I typed up both texts and students highlighted the repetitive phrases.
I intended to use these texts to show how authors use repetitive phrases to convey their messages. But the term “repetitive phrase,” isn’t catchy. Then, while I was using the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, I came across the term “bumper sticker sayings.” Now that’s catchy, I thought. “Bumper sticker sayings” is a term my students will remember and incorporate into their writing.
Before I showed my students the YouTube video Kindness Speech By 10-Year-Old Girl, I reminded them of Penfold and Turk’s bumper sticker sayings, “All Are Welcome” and “You Are Home.” Then, I asked them to listen for the girl’s bumper sticker saying. After watching the video, students identified her bumper sticker saying, “Be kind,” and highlighted it ten times in the text.
Next, I shared some of my bumper sticker sayings with students: "We All Matter," "Progress Not Perfection," "Failure Leads to Success," "Every Second Counts" and showed how I could use those sayings to tell stories about my life and belief system. Then, students went off to brainstorm three-to-five of their own bumper sticker sayings and choose one or two of them to write about his or her life.
They only had about fifteen minutes to write, but the room was silent which is usually a good sign during writers’ workshop. Silence means children have the opportunity to be lost in their own thoughts and to record those thoughts on paper without being distracted by their peers. But I didn’t know if magic was happening for sure until we shared out at the end of workshop.
And then magic happened. Three students read their Bumper Sticker writing. Their bumper sticker sayings where: "Stay Confident," "Stay Positive" and "Be Proud of Your Height." As students read, the shaka hand gesture filled the room. But it wasn’t just their hands moving back and forth, their bodies bounced up and down on the rug. One student read, “When people make fun of you for being short, be proud of your height.” Bodies shook with the shaka. He continued. “When you want to be as tall as your best friend, be proud of your height.” More shakas. Magic.
There’s nothing as magical as honesty filling a room. If I would have asked kids to share about a time people made fun of them, I would have been met with bowed heads. If I would have asked the kids to share about a time that they wished they were like their best friends, I would have been met with nervous giggles. Instead, I asked the kids to write about their bumper sticker sayings, and magic happened.
Lucky for me, the magic didn’t stop when writers’ workshop ended. This weekend I started reading Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience by Dan Blank. My mentor and friend, Melissa Stewart, lent me her copy to read. I vlogged about Mellissa’s books in Day 16 and 24 of my Summer Bookaday Challenge, and if you teach or write and haven’t checked out her website, stop reading this post and check it out right now. It’s a treasure trove of resources.
Anyway, Be the Gateway is a stunning book for many reasons. I’ve only read three chapters so far, but he talks about the importance of sharing your creative process and working from a mission statement, or in other words, a bumper sticker saying.
I’d never thought about my writing stemming from my core beliefs, but of course it does. I’d also never thought about using those core beliefs/mission statement/bumper sticker saying to define who I am. Ideas started coursing through my mind. To make sense of them all, I took a walk in the woods. Here’s the start of my new bio: Kate Narita believes life is full of magic, nature nourishes us and children champion change.
Magic. The teaching, writing and creating worlds colliding once again to make me a better writer, teacher and creator. I’m so grateful to live in the magic three each day.
Chalk and Ink
Chalk and Ink is a biweekly podcast that publishes on Fridays throughout the school year. Learn how teachers who write and writers who teach combine craft moves to create outstanding products for their students and readers. Download Chalk and Ink wherever you get your favorite podcasts.